PropNex Picks

February 08, 2022

A Good Valuer Has To Sleep, Dream, Think About Properties

PropNex Property Frontrunners Series Featuring Joseph Gan, Director of Valuation, PropNex Realty
By PropNex Research and editorial

In this special interview segment, PropNex Picks speaks to Director of Valuation Joseph Gan who has more than three decades of experience in the real estate valuation business. Joseph joined PropNex in 2019 to establish the firm’s valuation business and in a few short years, he has grown the team and placed PropNex on several banks’ panel of valuers – not an easy feat.

Joseph is passionate about real estate valuation and finds the job highly satisfying – especially in evaluating a property, analysing market trends to derive a fair value, and helping people own their dream home in the course of his work. A good valuer needs to have an “all-round feel” of the property market, he notes.

Read on to find out about the positive traits that make a valuer stand out from the crowd and some interesting memories from his work, including being chased and bitten by dogs.

1. Tell us about your experience in the real estate valuation business and what is most exciting about your role at PropNex?

I have been a valuer ever since graduating from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 1990. That’s a good 32 years doing what many would consider a mundane and boring job - just looking at properties and putting a price tag on them. However, no two properties are similar, even if they may be located next to each other, so every valuation exercise has to go through a detailed evaluation process in order to arrive at a value deemed to be a fair market value. The property could be an HDB flat or a Good Class Bungalow, but the process is similar. At the end of the day, the valuer must be able to defend his opinion of values when challenged.

During my course of work as a valuer, I have ample opportunities to appreciate how different property owners would choose to renovate their homes and I get to meet all kinds of owners - each has their own story to tell about their prized assets. The most exciting and challenging role for me here in PropNex is building an entire valuation division from scratch. PropNex has been a household name as far as the real estate agency business in Singapore is concerned, being the largest agency in town and still growing.

However, all these years PropNex has never had a valuation department. It has always been the management’s desire to have our own valuation team and I am very honoured, to say the least, to be given this huge role to be a pioneer valuer in setting up this area of consultancy business in PropNex. I joined the firm in May 2019 and my only regret now is that I did not come on board sooner. I can only see PropNex valuation division achieving new milestones as we strive to be as successful as its agency business.

2. Your team offers not just mortgage valuation but also for corporate exercises like acquisitions, special audit reviews, and initial public offering. Why is valuation important and how frequently should valuation be done?

The PropNex valuation division is still in its infant stage. As I write, we are around less than three years since its formation in May 2019. The immediate priority is to establish a good working relationship with banks and financial institutions, getting on board their valuation panels so that we can carry out mortgage valuations on behalf of their customers. Now that we have managed to gain admission onto the major banks’ valuation panels, (an unprecedented feat I must stress. No other newly formed valuation outfit can be admitted onto six major banks in Singapore in such a short period of time), the next area of focus is to develop our corporate valuation side of the business.

Every property has a value and it is important that this value is derived by an independent appraisal from a third party who has no conflict of interest with the properties and owners. We cannot put a time frame how long each valuation can hold in the market. The values depend on the volatility of the property market and sentiments. However, usually for audit reviews, the auditors will require an annual assessment of their clients’ property portfolio.

3. What are the attributes of a good valuer?

A good valuer has to have a good “all-round feel” of the property market. He or she has to sleep, dream, think about properties. Naturally, the individual has to be kept abreast with real estate news, policies, planning details so that during the course of his work, the valuer is able to demonstrate and derived fair, sound and objective opinions of values after taking a holistic view of the entire property market.

Valuers rely on comparable sale evidences to derive values because that is the most common approach to value properties in Singapore. In modern times, such data are readily available on many platforms and websites. What distinguishes a good valuer is how he or she is able to take all these data, study them, analyse them and form an opinion of value which is fair, supportable and defensible.

On the flip side, when there is an absence of similar comparable evidences, a good valuer is able to obtain sales transactions further away and do the necessary adjustments in terms of location, age, amenities etc. and derive a fair market value. It is important to note: not having good comparable evidence does not mean no value. Every property has a value and a good valuer must be able to take whatever data that is available and form a fair opinion of value.

4. Technology has disrupted many industries. To what extent will digital technology change the valuation business and how can we stay ahead of these changes?

Valuation has always been an art rather than a science. It is always been an opinion of values, never a right or wrong answer. However, in recent times, more and more people are trying to convert valuation into a science by using digital technology and adopting “e-valuation” as an approach to valuation.

As much as we must embrace digital technology in this new modern age and era, professional valuation practice can never be fully automated and performed without the human element. We cannot rely on technology like drones to carry out site inspections, especially so for all landed properties and more complicated and specialised properties. An actual physical site inspection must still be done by a qualified appraiser so that the attributes of each property can be accurately determined and appreciated by the valuer on site.

5. What have been the most rewarding or memorable experience you’ve garnered in the course of your work?

The most rewarding feeling as a valuer for more than three decades must be knowing that your decision in penning down a value on a property has helped someone out there secure their dream home and prized asset. There is also this indescribable sense of pride when you know that banks and financial institutions are lending huge amount of money daily based on your opinion of value for the mortgaged properties.

As for memorable experience, there are quite a few all these years. One of which must be to have the opportunity to value specialised properties like The Singapore Casket, The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, and The Fishery Port Fish Markets. Other memorable experiences would include the several occasions I have been chased and bitten by dogs, valuing eerie (rumoured to be haunted) houses, and encountering unpleasant situations with owners.

Contact Joseph to find out more about PropNex’s real estate valuation services.

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